Don’t “FAR” Over My OTA
The title of this post has been my mantra when implementing prototype other transaction agreements for four years. I wish I could take credit for this punny and clever slogan, but I first heard it from one of the many unsung heroes in the contracting field with whom I have had the pleasure of working with over the past four years: the brilliant, forward-leaning, and unsuspecting contracting shadow ninja at Army Contracting Command-Rock Island who is fighting the good fight for less regulation and policy for other transactions at (you know who you are!).
Even after working with other transactions for almost 10 years now, I don’t think I have yet unlocked the true unbelievable potential that other transaction authority provides the federal government. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition & Sustainment’s “Other Transaction Guide” (November 2018 v 1.0) lauds some bold statements that identify the purpose for using other transaction authority, to include “adopt and incorporate business practices that reflect commercial industry standards…” (page 4) and “Collaborate in innovative arrangements” (page 5). Most of the time, these words fall flat on the page during execution, unfortunately.
I have been fortunate to shadow acquisition visionaries throughout my career who challenge conventional processes and expectations, but admittedly even I’m still subconsciously held back by my own federal acquisition programming. Why is this? Why do we in the acquisition and contracting field continue to push the square contracting peg into the round other transaction authority hole
If you’ve read this far and know what I’m talking about, you’ve likely experienced and come to expect some of these unfulfilled promises or expectations:
- “Rapid” acquisition that equates to a 6 month+ timeline (sometimes over a year!)
- Review of pricing information equates to traditional cost analysis
- Identifying prototype solutions to fill capability gaps equates to procurement of solutions to address prescriptive requirements
- Other transaction competition requirements equate to CICA’s (Competition in Contracting Act) version of full and open competition
- Local agency policies model and reflect traditional contract documentation and approvals for oversight and compliance purposes, stifling any innovative practices that may be adopted on this front
If you’re still reading, then you’re probably intimately acquainted with all of the above (and then some). It’s deflating and counterintuitive to re-create the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) processes and documentation under an authority that purposefully excludes application of the FAR. To really tap into the power and potential of other transaction authority, we need more business acquisition professionals willing to create other transaction art from a blank canvas. Throw out everything you thought you knew and dare to think critically and unapologetically deliver the best business case, and ultimately best investment decision, to meet the mission. Yes, this might mean your FAR templates and samples are obsolete (gasp!).
For those of you too uncertain or uncomfortable to travel on a mostly uncharted and unprecedented frontier, I kindly ask you stay in your traditional acquisition lane and don’t impose your “FAR” expectations and requirements all over other transaction agreements. In the meantime, I’ll be over here cruising on the other transaction interstate alongside Tradewinds.